5 Signs of Having Low Self-Esteem and How to Improve It.

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By Areej Irfan

Self-esteem is a critical aspect of our emotional and psychological well-being. It defines our perception of self-worth, influencing how we navigate through life’s challenges and relationships. Having healthy self-esteem empowers us to embrace opportunities, make confident decisions, and maintain a positive outlook.

On the other hand, low self-esteem can hinder personal growth, lead to self-doubt, and negatively impact our mental health. In this article, we will explore the definition of self-esteem, understand its significance, and delve into seven common signs that indicate the presence of low self-esteem in individuals.

There are a lot of signs of having low self-esteem and by recognizing these signs, we can take steps toward nurturing a stronger and more positive sense of self.

5 signs of having low self-esteem and how to improve it

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Constant Self-Criticism

1. Identifying Negative Self-Talk Patterns:

One of the most prominent signs of low self-esteem is the habit of constant self-criticism. This internal dialogue involves negative self-talk, where individuals consistently berate themselves, focus on their flaws, and downplay their achievements.

Identifying these negative self-talk patterns is crucial in understanding the root cause of low self-esteem.

Negative self-talk can take various forms, such as self-blame (“I always mess things up”), magnification of mistakes (“I can’t believe I made that small error, I’m a failure”), and personalization (“They didn’t invite me; it must be because I’m not likable”). These thought patterns create a distorted perception of reality and can lead to a downward spiral of self-doubt and self-criticism.

2. The Impact of Self-Criticism on Overall Well-Being:

Constant self-criticism can significantly impact an individual’s overall well-being. It not only erodes self-confidence but also contributes to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

When people consistently view themselves through a negative lens, it becomes difficult for them to appreciate their strengths, achievements, and positive qualities. As a result, they may shy away from taking on new challenges, isolate themselves from social interactions, and experience a decline in motivation and productivity.

Moreover, the impact of self-criticism extends beyond mental and emotional health; it can also affect physical health. Studies have shown that individuals with high levels of self-criticism may be more susceptible to chronic health conditions due to the chronic stress they experience.

3. Strategies to Challenge and Change Self-Critical Thoughts:

Challenging and changing self-critical thoughts is an essential step in building healthy self-esteem. Here are some strategies to help combat constant self-criticism:

Practice Self-Awareness:

Begin by becoming more aware of your self-talk. Pay attention to the thoughts that arise when facing challenges or setbacks. Question the validity of these thoughts and challenge any extreme or irrational beliefs.

Cultivate Self-Compassion:

Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend. Acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s an inherent part of being human.

Reframe Negative Thoughts:

Whenever you catch yourself engaging in self-criticism, reframe those thoughts more balanced and positively. For example, if you think, “I’m terrible at this,” try reframing it as “I’m still learning, and with practice, I can improve.”

Focus on Strengths and Achievements:

Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem. Recognizing your strengths and accomplishments can help counterbalance self-criticism.

Difficulty Accepting Compliments

1. Understanding the Discomfort with Compliments:

One of the telltale signs of low self-esteem is having difficulty accepting compliments from others. While compliments are meant to uplift and validate, individuals with low self-esteem often find themselves feeling uneasy, embarrassed, or undeserving when receiving praise.

Understanding the root of this discomfort is crucial in addressing the underlying issues that contribute to low self-esteem.

The discomfort with compliments may stem from deep-seated beliefs of unworthiness or a fear of being perceived as arrogant or boastful. People with low self-esteem may struggle to internalize positive feedback because they have conditioned themselves to focus on their perceived shortcomings instead of acknowledging their strengths.

2. Link between Low Self-Esteem and Rejecting Positive Feedback:

The link between low self-esteem and rejecting compliments is multifaceted.

Firstly, individuals with low self-esteem tend to have a negative self-concept, which makes it challenging for them to believe or accept positive feedback from others. They may view compliments as insincere or assume that the person giving the compliment has an ulterior motive.

Secondly, rejecting compliments can be a defense mechanism to protect oneself from potential disappointment or feelings of inadequacy. By downplaying compliments, individuals with low self-esteem create a shield against the vulnerability of accepting positive judgments about themselves.

Moreover, societal influences also play a role in shaping attitudes toward compliments. In some cultures or environments, modesty and humility are highly valued, leading individuals to deflect compliments as a social norm.

3. Tips for Learning to Accept Compliments Graciously:

Learning to accept compliments graciously is an essential step towards improving self-esteem and fostering healthier self-perception. Here are some tips to help individuals embrace positive feedback:

Pause and Acknowledge:

Instead of instinctively deflecting compliments, take a moment to pause and acknowledge the words of praise. Allow yourself to hear and absorb the kind words.

Say “Thank You”:

A simple “thank you” is a powerful response to a compliment. Resist the urge to downplay or negate the praise and respond with genuine gratitude.

Practice Self-Validation:

Remind yourself of your accomplishments and worth regularly. Internalizing your achievements will make it easier to accept compliments from others.

Challenge Negative Beliefs:

Identify and challenge the negative beliefs that contribute to your discomfort with compliments. Replace self-critical thoughts with positive affirmations.

Focus on Effort and Growth:

If you find it difficult to accept compliments on your talents, focus on the effort and hard work you put into your achievements. Emphasize the journey of growth and learning.

Fear of Failure and Avoidance of Challenges

1. Exploring the Fear of Failure and Its Root Causes:

Fear of failure is a common characteristic of individuals with low self-esteem. This fear goes beyond the normal apprehension associated with taking risks; it becomes a paralyzing force that prevents individuals from pursuing their goals and aspirations. To address this issue, it is essential to explore the root causes of this fear.

The fear of failure often originates from past negative experiences or messages received during childhood. It may result from a fear of judgment, criticism, or rejection from others.

Traumatic events or constant pressure to be perfect can also contribute to the development of this fear. Additionally, individuals with low self-esteem tend to engage in negative self-talk, anticipating failure and assuming they are incapable of success.

2. The Role of Low Self-Esteem in Avoiding Challenges:

Low self-esteem plays a significant role in the avoidance of challenges. When individuals doubt their abilities and self-worth, they become reluctant to take on new tasks or engage in activities where they might face failure.

This avoidance becomes a protective mechanism to shield themselves from potential feelings of inadequacy and disappointment.

Moreover, the fear of failure can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for those with low self-esteem. By avoiding challenges, they deny themselves opportunities for growth and success, reinforcing their belief that they are incapable or unworthy. This negative cycle further solidifies their low self-esteem, creating a barrier to personal development and achieving their full potential.

Seeking Constant Validation from Others

1. Recognizing the Need for External Validation:

One of the unmistakable signs of low self-esteem is the constant need for external validation. Individuals with this characteristic often seek approval, praise, and reassurance from others to validate their self-worth.

They rely heavily on the opinions of others to gauge their competence, attractiveness, or likability, leading to a continuous cycle of seeking validation.

The need for external validation can stem from a lack of self-confidence and a deep-seated insecurity about one’s abilities and values. It may also be rooted in past experiences of rejection or criticism, which have left individuals feeling inadequate and unworthy of self-approval.

2. Understanding the Dangers of Relying Solely on Others’ Opinions:

While receiving validation from others can temporarily boost self-esteem, relying solely on external opinions can be detrimental in the long run. Here are some dangers associated with this behavior:

Inconsistent Validation:

People’s opinions and perceptions fluctuate, and seeking validation from others means that one’s self-esteem will constantly be at the mercy of external factors.

Vulnerability to Manipulation:

Constantly seeking validation can make individuals susceptible to manipulation by others who may use praise or approval to control or exploit them.

Loss of Authenticity:

Seeking validation from others may lead individuals to compromise their authenticity and true selves to fit into societal expectations or gain approval from specific individuals or groups.

Self-Worth Tied to Others:

Relying solely on external validation means that one’s sense of self-worth is contingent on the opinions of others. This can create a fragile self-esteem that easily crumbles in the face of criticism or disapproval.

Isolating Oneself and Avoiding Social Interactions

1. Analyzing the Connection between Low Self-Esteem and Social Isolation:

Isolating oneself and avoiding social interactions are prevalent signs of low self-esteem. Individuals with low self-esteem often experience a heightened fear of judgment and rejection by others. As a result, they may withdraw from social situations to protect themselves from potential negative experiences.

Social isolation can also be a coping mechanism for individuals who perceive themselves as inadequate or unlikable. They may believe that avoiding social interactions can shield them from feelings of inadequacy or prevent others from discovering their perceived flaws.

Furthermore, isolating oneself may create a sense of safety and control, as interactions with others can trigger anxiety or self-doubt. Unfortunately, this avoidance perpetuates a negative cycle, reinforcing feelings of loneliness and further eroding self-esteem.

2. The Importance of Healthy Social Connections for Self-Esteem:

Healthy social connections are vital for nurturing self-esteem and overall well-being. Positive social interactions provide opportunities for validation, support, and a sense of belonging. Here are some reasons why healthy social connections are crucial for self-esteem:

Validation and Acceptance:

Meaningful relationships offer validation and acceptance, which can counteract negative self-perceptions and boost self-esteem.

Emotional Support:

Having a support system allows individuals to share their challenges and receive empathy, compassion, and encouragement, contributing to a greater sense of self-worth.

Constructive Feedback:

Trusted friends can provide constructive feedback, helping individuals recognize their strengths and areas for growth in a supportive environment.

Challenging Negative Beliefs:

Engaging in social interactions exposes individuals to new perspectives, challenging negative beliefs, and broadening their understanding of themselves and others.

Enhanced Self-Image:

Positive social interactions contribute to a positive self-image, fostering a sense of competence, likability, and self-assurance.

3. Steps to Gradually Improve Social Interactions and Build Meaningful Relationships:

For those struggling with low self-esteem and social isolation, taking gradual steps to improve social interactions can be transformative. Here are some strategies to help build meaningful relationships:

Start Small:

Begin by engaging in low-pressure social activities or with a small group of trusted friends or family. Gradually expand your social circle as you feel more comfortable.

Practice Active Listening:

Pay close attention to others during conversations and show genuine interest in what they have to say. Active listening fosters meaningful connections and mutual understanding.

Join Social Groups:

Explore hobbies or interests that align with your passions and join related social groups or clubs. Shared interests can create a strong foundation for building connections.

Challenge Negative Thoughts:

When faced with anxious or self-critical thoughts before or during social interactions, challenge them with more positive and realistic perspectives.

Set Realistic Expectations:

Understand that social interactions may not always be perfect, and that’s okay. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them.


Understanding the root causes and consequences of these signs is essential in breaking free from the cycle of low self-esteem.

Building healthy self-esteem involves cultivating self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-acceptance. It requires challenging negative thoughts and beliefs, embracing one’s strengths and accomplishments, and learning to appreciate oneself without seeking constant validation from others.

Furthermore, fostering healthy social connections and engaging in meaningful relationships plays a vital role in enhancing self-esteem. Positive interactions with others provide validation, support, and constructive feedback, reinforcing a positive self-image and strengthening emotional well-being.

Overcoming low self-esteem is a journey that requires patience, commitment, and the willingness to seek support if needed. By implementing the strategies discussed for each sign, individuals can gradually improve their self-esteem, leading to a more confident, resilient, and fulfilling life.

Remember, building healthy self-esteem is not about seeking perfection but rather embracing our unique qualities, learning from our experiences, and continuously growing towards self-improvement.

With self-compassion as our compass, we can navigate the path toward a positive and empowered sense of self, ready to face life’s challenges with confidence and resilience.

5 signs of having low self-esteem and how to improve it


What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the overall opinion and evaluation that an individual holds about themselves. It encompasses beliefs, feelings, and attitudes about one’s worth, abilities, and value as a person.

What are the signs of low self-esteem?

Signs of low self-esteem can vary from person to person, but common indicators include constant self-criticism, difficulty accepting compliments, fear of failure and avoiding challenges, seeking constant validation from others, isolating oneself and avoiding social interactions, putting others’ needs before one’s own, and experiencing negative body image and low self-worth.

How does low self-esteem impact our lives?

Low self-esteem can have a profound impact on various aspects of our lives. It can lead to decreased confidence, increased stress and anxiety, difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships, decreased motivation and productivity, and a higher susceptibility to mental health issues like depression.

Can low self-esteem be improved?

Yes, low self-esteem can be improved. Building healthy self-esteem involves recognizing negative thought patterns, challenging them, and cultivating self-compassion and self-acceptance. Seeking support from friends, family, or professionals, and engaging in self-improvement activities can also contribute to boosting self-esteem.

How can I improve my self-esteem?

Improving self-esteem takes time and effort, but some strategies include practicing self-compassion, setting realistic goals, focusing on your strengths and accomplishments, challenging negative self-talk, surrounding yourself with supportive and positive influences, and seeking professional help if needed.

What is the role of social interactions in self-esteem?

Healthy social connections play a significant role in nurturing self-esteem. Positive interactions with others provide validation, emotional support, and constructive feedback, contributing to a more positive self-image and increased feelings of self-worth.

Can social media affect self-esteem?

Yes, social media can impact self-esteem. Comparing oneself to others on social media, seeking validation through likes and comments, and experiencing cyberbullying can negatively affect self-esteem. Being mindful of social media usage and focusing on real-life connections can help mitigate these effects.

Are there specific exercises or practices to boost self-esteem?

Yes, there are various exercises and practices to boost self-esteem, such as journaling to identify and challenge negative thoughts, practicing self-affirmations, engaging in activities that align with your passions and strengths, and setting and achieving small goals to build self-confidence.

Can therapy help with low self-esteem?

Yes, therapy can be beneficial in addressing and improving low self-esteem. Therapists can provide tools and support to challenge negative beliefs, explore underlying issues, and develop healthier self-perceptions.

Is having high self-esteem the same as being arrogant?

No, having high self-esteem is not the same as being arrogant. Arrogance often involves an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a disregard for others’ feelings. High self-esteem, on the other hand, is a healthy sense of self-worth and confidence while respecting and valuing others.

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